Chinese ferret badgers (Melogale moschata) are found from Assam to central China and northern Indochina, as well as in Taiwan, and Hainar (Jones, 1982).
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native )
Melogale moschata and M. personata are very similar in external morphologically, and - and field records, including skin specimens lacking an associated skull, need to be considered as identifiable only as Melogale sp. throughout the parts its range where M. personata is known to occur or might plausibly occur, and only references to skull characteristics should be used for species- level identification. Thus, in Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Viet Nam, Cambodia and India there is continued difficulty of identifying recent records of ferret badgers to species, most of which lack skulls or or did not have the skull characters checked and were not preserved. Hence it is impossible to say anything about this species’s current distribution, status or ecology in these regions.
M. moschata is the smallest badger. They can weigh from 1 to 3 kg and range in length from 30 to 40 cm (Barnhart, 2001). The dorsal color has phases that vary from dark chocolate-brown, to fawn-brown, to grayish-brown. The underside can vary from white to orange. The face is black with a white forehead, which borders a dark, variable "mask." This species has a characteristic long bushy tail, large ears, and a slender body. The fur of Chinese ferret badgers is short. There usually is a stripe down the middle of the back and a spot on the crown of the head (Long, 1993). They also have elongated, strong fore claws needed for digging (Lekagul, 1977).
Range mass: 1 to 3 kg.
Range length: 30 to 40 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Melogale moschata live in tropical and subtropical forests, and can also be found in grasslands (Hussain, 2001).
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
Habitat and Ecology
This species is fossorial and lives in preexisting holes (including rodent dens, firewood stacks, open fields, and rock piles around houses (Wang and Fuller, 2003), rather than digging new ones (Taylor, 1989). It is exclusively nocturnal (Wang and Fuller, 2003) and feeds primarily on small animals such as insects, earthworms (most important part of its diet (Qian et al, 1976; Chuang and Lee, 1997), snails, frogs, and sometimes carcasses of small birds and mammals, eggs, and fruit (Chian and Sheng, 1976; Long and Killingley, 1983; Ewer, 1985; Neal, 1986; Chuang, 1994). Resting home range size was found to be 10.6 ha (Wang and Fuller, 2003).
Almost all pregnant females were found between March and October during a study on the reproduction of this species on Taiwan (Pei and Wang, 1995). Litter size is two, and evidence suggests that they breed once a year (Pein and Wang, 1995). This species is often found near human habitations (Storz and Wozencraft, 1999), taking shelter during the day, and earthworms (the most important part of its diet) are most abundant in the fertile vegetable gardens and farmland soils were this species frequently forages (Wang and Fuller, 2003). It is also sometimes invited into native huts to exterminate cockroaches and other insects (Storz and Wozencraft, 1999). Storz and Wozencraft (1999) report that it is found in tropical and subtropical forests and wooded hillsides, as well as grasslands and cultivated areas such as rice fields.
Melogale moschata is an omnivore. The diet consists of small rodents, insects, amphibians, invertebrates, and occasionally fruit. The most important food items eaten by ferret badgers are earthworms, insects, and amphibians (Chuang and Lee, 1997; Chien et al., 1976).
Animal Foods: mammals; amphibians; insects; terrestrial worms
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: omnivore
Chinese ferret badgers probably affect populations of invertebrates and small mammals upon which they feed.
Specific reports of predation upon ferret badgers are lacking. However, some think that because of the small size of M. moschata, they could be vulnerable to predation by larger carnivores. Chinese ferret badgers will fiercely defend themselves if attacked and also emit a strong odorous secretion from their anal glands (Jackson, 2001).
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
In captivity, Chinese ferret badgers have been known to live up to 10 years (Jackson, 2001), and one Chinese ferret badger in captivity lived for 17 years (Jones, 1982).
Status: captivity: 10 to 17 years.
Status: captivity: 10.5 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
The mating system of this species is not known.
Chinese ferret badgers give birth to cubs, which can be born year round, but usually arrive in late spring (May or June) and again in late fall (September and October). On average, two to three cubs make up a litter. These litters are born in burrows. The mother feeds the cubs until they are two to three months of age (Barnhart, 2001).
Breeding season: Births peak in May and June, and then again in September and October.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 3.
Average weaning age: 2-3 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
Average number of offspring: 2.5.
The mother cares for her cubs in a den until they are 2 to 3 months old. She protects them and provides them with milk.
Parental Investment: altricial
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Melogale moschata
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Melogale moschata
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
The Chinese ferret badger is listed in Schedule I part I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act (Hussain 2001).
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Melogale moschata and personata are very similar in external morphologically - and field records, including skin specimens lacking an associated skull, need to be considered as identifiable only as Melogale sp. throughout the parts its range where M. personata is known to occur or might plausibly do so, and only references to skull characteristics should be used for species level identification.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
No negative impact on humans has been noted for this species.
People like these animals around because they feed on certain pest insects such as cockroaches (Nowak, 1999). Some people, such as members of the Bhotia and the Lepha tribes, encourage Chinese ferret badgers to come into their huts (Barnhart, 2001).
Positive Impacts: controls pest population
The Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata), also known as the small-toothed ferret-badger is a member of the mustelid widely distributed in Southeast Asia. It is listed as Least Concern by IUCN and considered tolerant of modified habitat.
Distinctive mask-like face markings distinguish the Chinese ferret-badger from most other oriental mustelids, although the remaining members of the genus Melogale have comparable facial markings. This ferret-badger lives in burrows or crevices and is active at dusk and at night. It is a good climber and feeds on fruit, insects, small animals and worms. It is savage when alarmed and its anal secretions are foul-smelling.
The average body size of the Chinese ferret-badger is 33 to 43 centimetres (13 to 17 in) with a tail of 15 to 23 centimetres (5.9 to 9.1 in). It lives in grassland, open forest and tropical rainforest from north-eastern India to southern China, including Hong Kong, Taiwan and northern Indochina.
Ecology and behaviour
Chinese ferret-badgers mate in March. The female gives birth to a litter of up to 3 young in May or June. The new borns are blind and well furred with the same color pattern as the adults. Their eyes remain closed for at least 2 weeks.
The Chinese ferret-badger is associated with reported outbreaks of human rabies in Southeastern China which were first reported in 1997 and the most recent case in 2008. There have been no reported deaths in these cases; however, there is currently no vaccination for rabies associated with ferret-badgers.
- Duckworth, J. W., Timmins, R. J., R., Roberton, S., Long, B., Lau, M. W. N., Choudbury, A. (2008). "Melogale moschata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Storz, J. F. and Wozencraft, W. C. (1999). Melogale moschata. Mammalian Species No. 631: 1–4.
- Zhang, S., Tang, Q., Wu, X., Liu, Y., Zhang, F., Rupprecht, C. E., & Hu, R. (2009). Rabies in ferret badgers, southeastern China. Emerging infectious diseases: 15 (6): 946. doi: 10.3201/eid1506.081485
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